You don’t have to look far to find articles or stories about companies looking to enhance their performance management processes. We believe the focus on improving performance management is a worthy cause, as we rarely find traditional performance management processes really enhancing performance.
However, the focus on performance management might be better spent on making leaders better coaches. This requires a mindset shift, as well helping leaders enhance their coaching skills by using these six tools:
1. Focus on the future versus the past. Coaching is about preparing employees to reach their potential and to meet future challenges. This means learning from the past but also focusing how the employee will improve and leverage experience and past performance as practice for the future.
2. Transition from “one size fits all” to an individualized approach. Each team member has different capabilities, strengths and goals. The most effective coaching and the best performance is built on a solid understanding of how these differences can be leveraged.
3. The best coaching happens in the moment. Immediate feedback allows for faster course corrections and improvements. This means that leaders either need to be in a position to observe performance, or have regular conversations with employees so feedback can be provided when performance cannot be observed firsthand.
4. Change from passive recipient to active owner of process. This is more for employee than manager. That said, it is up to the leader to establish this mindset with their team. Each employee must own their individual development, which means actively asking for feedback and suggestions.
5. Move from complex to simple. The more forms, processes or rules established around coaching, the more likely it will not be successful. Because there is a real risk in taking away formal processes, many managers will do nothing. This means the managers of managers must be brought into this process and mindset. Second or third level managers must have ongoing conversations about their manager’s coaching conversations and process. Without this reinforcement, change is difficult.
6. Go from answers to questions. Success in life is determined by asking the right questions. Leaders should focus on asking questions rather than providing advice. Not that leaders should not give feedback or advice, but the best coaches push employees to come up with answers on their own. Employee answers are usually better than managers’ because the employees are closer to situations and details. Further, when an employee develops a plan, their commitment to the execution is going to be materially higher. Finally, it leads to employees growing and solving problems on their own. One of the biggest tasks for leaders is to unleash their employees’ potential. This doesn’t happen when the manager has all the answers.
With these six mindset shifts, leaders become much more effective at coaching. The key is to practice these skills and for organizations to ensure leaders stick with their commitment to become coaches.